ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia - Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov has been killed, a spokesman for Russian forces said Tuesday.
Col. Ilya Shabalkin said Maskhadov was killed during a "special operation," but he did not elaborate.
The Interfax news agency later quoted Shabalkin as saying Maskhadov had been killed in Tolstoy-Yurt, a village in the northern sector of Chechnya (news - web sites) that generally has been under the tight control of Russian forces.
Earlier Tuesday, Russian officials reported detaining three rebels who were planning a large terrorist attack on the administration building in Tolstoy-Yurt.
Maskhadov led the Chechen separatists who fought Russian forces to a standstill in a 1994-96 war and he became the republic's president after the Russian military withdrew.
But he appeared to lose substantial influence to Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, and by the time Russian forces returned to Chechnya in 1999, he was believed to command loyalty among only a relatively small faction of fighters.